Noel Eberline and Jef Anderson, co-owners of Yearbook Studios, designed the Shop Small Campaign, recently unveiled by the Forest Park Chamber of Commerce. 

“Unless you’ve owned your own small business,” Eberline said, “there’s no way anyone can fathom how challenging it can truly be. Most small businesses owners have to wear almost every hat for the business, including buyer, merchandiser, shopkeeper, accountant, marketing manager, social media poster, business development, sweeper and toilet cleaner, to name a few.”

Because each independent small business in Forest Park cannot come close to the advertising budgets of the big chain stores, the shops and eateries in town depend on the Chamber of Commerce to supplement their own advertising by promoting the town as a whole with events like the Wine Walk and advertising campaigns like Shop Small.

“The message ‘Come In, We’re Small,” Eberline said, “was derived from the traditional, retro ‘Come In, We’re Open’ door signs. It promotes a friendly, nostalgic and welcoming message. The graphics feature the outline of some of the distinctive buildings on Madison Street to highlight the small-town charm and unique architecture.”

Laurie Kokenes, director of the Forest Park Chamber, got the idea for the campaign from a workshop she recently attended. She is well aware of how convenient it is to shop online and how big box stores can offer low prices, but she is quick to add that “shopping small” is a quality experience the big box stores can’t match.

“Imagine Forest Park,” she said, “without any of its small businesses — coffee shops, boutiques, restaurants. your personal trainer. Your dog groomer and dance instructor wouldn’t be just around the corner. Impromptu chats with neighbors you run into when you’re out and about, along with the friendly relationships you’ve established with local shop owners, would be a thing of the past. Community organizations would lose the support of small business owners who donate goods or volunteer their time.

“Small business owners tend to buy local, putting more of their profits back into the community. Small business owners care about their customers and the products they’re selling them. Small businesses encourage entrepreneurship.”

The Chamber and its members are also increasingly using social media to get their message out. They are creating 10 social media graphics they call “The Faces of Small Business,” which will include photos of small business owners and text that tells their stories. 

“The Small Business Administration census,” Kokenes noted, “states that there are 26.8 million small businesses in the nation … and those small businesses employ nearly half of U.S. employees.” 

She urged shoppers to “be a game changer. Grab an ‘I Support Small’ button at a local shop and make a pledge to shop small. Get vocal on social by posting pictures, tweets and status updates using #ShopSmallForestPark to let everyone know that you support shopping small in Forest Park.”

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